John Pohl, THE CODICES John Pohl's

ANCIENT BOOKS: Borgia Group Codices

From Spanish Colonial historians we learn that books like Codex Borgia were primarily divinatory manuals:

"The first tells of the years and seasons; the second, of their days and feasts during the whole year; the third, of the dreams, illusions, vanities, and omens in which they believed. The fourth is the book of baptism and the names they gave the children; the fifth deals with their rites, ceremonies, and omens connected with marriage."

(Fray Toribio Motolonía 1541)

Image - Codex Telleriano - Remensis, Folio 8r
Codex Telleriano - Remensis, Folio 8r
Click on image to enlarge.

Dominican friars like Pedro de los Ríos, who worked extensively in Puebla and Oaxaca, went to the trouble to have indigenous scribes create special editions of the tonalpohualli which they subsequently "glossed" with European texts to explain the meaning of pictographic signs. Surviving masterpieces like Codex Telleriano Remensis and Codex Ríos (Vaticanus A) have consequently become our "rossetta stones" for deciphering the meaning of the Borgia Group codices.

Folio 8r from Codex Telleriano Remensis illustrates the last eight days of the first trecena presided over by the goddess Tonacacigua. The texts assign good and bad qualities to the days, identifies the thirteen gods of the days, signified by their miniature heads, and gives information on the patron goddess as well as her consort Tonacateuchtli: "She was the one who caused famines; they called her Seven Serpent." and "…Tonacatecuhtli who was the god that they said made the world."

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